People who suddenly reach into a pocket or purse and pull out a phone to answer it might not actually be doing what they appear to be doing. Maybe they just don't want to talk to you.
According to a study entitled, "Americans and their cell phones," by Pew Research, released August 15, among U.S. adults surveyed, 13% acknowledge having used their cell phones at least once in the past 30 days to avoid interacting with someone. I suspect that percentage would have been much greater if the survey had included other motivations, such as wanting to appear to be important or busy, showing off a new high-status phone, wanting to move to a more private setting where one is less likely to be observed, or any of dozens of other motivations.
Since deceivers are not always clever enough to pull off their deceptions, you can sometimes detect the deception if you're aware of the more common mistakes they make. For example, a typical error associated with the I'm-answering-my-phone ploy described above is forgetting to disable the ring tone. Nothing looks sillier than talking into a cell phone that suddenly begins to ring. When you see this happen, it's probable that a deception was underway. And if you suspect this deception, you can test your conjecture by calling the person on your phone, if you have their number. If you hear the physical phone ring, then it wasn't engaged.
Here is Part I of a little catalog of examples of deceptions involving the telephone, and some methods for detecting them.
- Circumventing personal cell phone bans
- When using personal cell phones is banned at work, some use this ploy: Make the call, put the cell phone on speaker or use a blue tooth earpiece, then pick up the desk phone without making a call on it, and continue the conversation on the cell phone. They then appear to be speaking on the desk phone.
- A typical mistake is to forget to warn, or fail to warn, the called party that the cell phone is on speaker.
- Phone borrowers
- Someone If you need an excuse to leave a
meeting early, having an actual
call come in on your phone
is usually good enoughwho wants to borrow your phone to make a call might actually make a call, but they might also want to have a look at your recent calls.
- Borrowers rarely forget that you can watch what they do. Lending someone your phone is not a good idea, but at least you'll know what number they called.
- Faking incoming calls
- If you need an excuse to leave a meeting early, having an actual call come in on your phone is usually good enough. With a scripting language like AppleScript, and a Skype account, you can easily arrange it.
- Common mistake: forgetting to blank the screen and mute the sound of the computer that runs the script. Anyone passing by, with enough knowledge, can easily figure out what's happening.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Managing Pressure: The Unexpected
- When projects falter, we expect demands for status and explanations. What's puzzling is how often this
happens to projects that aren't in trouble. Here's Part II of a catalog of strategies for managing
- Confronting the Workplace Bully: I
- When a bully targets you, you have three options: accept the abuse; avoid the bully or escape; and confront
or fight back. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
- What Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: I
- When you're responsible for an organizational function, and someone not reporting to you won't recognize
your authority, or doesn't comply with policies you rightfully established, you have a hard time carrying
out your responsibilities. Why does this happen?
- Reactance and Micromanagement
- When we feel that our freedom at work is threatened, we sometimes experience urges to do what is forbidden,
or to not do what is required. This phenomenon — called reactance — might explain
some of the dynamics of micromanagement.
- Before You Blow the Whistle: II
- When organizations become aware of negligence, miscalculations, failures, wrongdoing, or legal infractions,
they often try to conceal the bad news. People who disagree with the concealment activity sometimes
decide to reveal what the organization is trying to hide. Here's Part II of our catalog of methods used
to suppress the truth.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.